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Exclusive: Creed Bratton Talks 'The Office' And His Amazing Journey

June 25th, 2009 10:55am EDT
Creed - The OfficeYou have to love any story that contains the line, "Cut to a night of drinking ouzo. The next morning I wake up and it looked like a bomb went off in the place and my tongue is bigger than my head." Now, is it that surprising this was spoken by Creed from "The Office"? Well, not Creed on "The Office," but the real life Creed Bratton who plays Creed on "The Office."

Other than that story which reveals why he changed his name to Creed, he talks about his time with The Grass Roots in the 60s and his long, kind of amazing, journey that led to playing the fan favorite character -- or possibly playing a version himself... Honestly, as this interview shows, it's sometimes hard to tell.



Mike: I was watching the web episodes. What I liked, in the second one with Ed Helms, you mention the William Charles Schneider Memorial Fund... You used your birth name.

Creed: My birth name, yes they did, yes. They've done that a couple of times, actually. They did it with the passport thing. When I get in debt, I'm William Charles Schneider (laughs).

Mike: Unfortunately, it sounds like he passed away since he has a memorial fund.

Creed: Yeah, he has a memorial fund. Did you see the season two episode, "The Booze Cruise"'s deleted scenes?



Mike: That's one of my favorite episodes. That's the one Rob Riggle is on playing Captain Jack.

Creed: There's a deleted scene where I play guitar. He comes out and plays "Smoke on the Water" -- it's pretty damn funny if I say so myself -- when someone says, "this party's dying," I said, "Not on my watch, let's rock this joint" ... then it actually talks all about my history with The Grass Roots ... So, some people know I was with the group and some people don't.

Mike: I was going to ask you about The Grass Roots. Do you ever want to say to people that only know you as Creed from "The Office," "Hey buddy, I was in The Grass Roots. 'Let's Live For Today,' 'Midnight Confessions,' ever heard of those songs"?


Creed: (Laughs) They would have to be Baby Boomers to remember those songs.

Mike: I'm not a Baby Boomer and I know those songs.

Creed: Well, you're right. They're all on the top 40 oldies stations as you drive around.

Mike: Why did you change your name?

Creed: That's a very good story. My father died when I was two in World War II. After that, this guy adopted me -- actually he didn't, I thought he did; he didn't really adopt me -- when he married my mom, his last name was Ertmoed. I found out when I went to Europe after college that I wasn't actually legally adopted -- but I was this Ertmoed, Chuck Ertmoed, horrible name. I mean, it was the worst. It's probably one of the reasons I have a great sense of humor because I had to learn to deal with that horrible negative. People made fun of me, they'd put their finger down my throat and say, "Hey, it's ErtMOAD ErtMOAD." No joking, that's truly what they did. Guys are cruel, you know?

So, I'm in Europe. I've been there about a year and a half; traveled all over North Africa and the Middle East. I just had an affair with this director's daughter -- in a movie I did in Israel -- and we went to the Greek Islands. She took off to go back to the United States and I'm by myself in Athens.

I meet this couple from Oregon, English teachers -- they were going to Crete to teach English to the Cretans. So we are sitting there and I always had this image of me being very successful in my mind's eye, as an actor and as a musician. So I said that I was going to go back and I'm going to make it as a musician and, eventually, acting. They said, "What's your name?" I said, "Chuck Ertmoad." And they said, "That's an unfortunate name." I said, "You know, it's not even my real name. It's William Charles Schneider" -- which they said, "That's not that great either. You need a rock star name!"

Cut to a night of drinking ouzo. The next morning I wake up and it looked like a bomb went off in the place and my tongue is bigger than my head. I look over and on the floor next to my roughsack is a table cloth that I obviously took from the place we were drinking at. All these names are on there and they're all crossed out except one name is circled... it's Creed Bratton. I thought, "Oh, that's obviously an omen."

I get back to L.A. ... The Grass Roots are just starting and I was just going to sign my name to the contract. I was going through the closet and saw my rough sack. I pulled it out and the table cloth comes out and I see the name. I go to sign the contract and signed it Creed Bratton. Our manager said, "You're Chuck Ertmoad, Chuck, what's going on?" and I said, "Well, that's my new name, now." From that moment people looked at me as, "Well, he's a little odd, isn't he?" (laughs).

Mike: Well, I don't think your character on "The Office" would be the same without the first name, Creed.

Creed: I think it does, it just adds to the quirkiness of this guy. I wrote that character; I came up with that character, shot it, and presented it to [Series Creator] Greg Daniels. He was stealing, he was physic, he was a drug addict -- it was all this stuff that I came up with. And they used a lot of it.

Creed - The Office

Image © NBC Universal, Inc.

Mike: Was that a casting call?

Creed: No. I was working on "Bernie Mac" ... I was really down and out; he got me a job as a stand in. It's almost the kiss of death if you worked as a stand in. I don't stay down for long, I'm like the character; I find a way to weasel my way out of these situations (laughs). I called [Director] Ken Kwapis and said, "I don't know if you've cast this "Office" -- the American thing you're doing -- I feel like I should be on this project." He said, "You know what? You're so quirky, you should be but we've already cast it. You want to work in the background? I'll do my best to work you into the mix." That was enough for me. Like I said: I wrote the character, presented it, then got on the Halloween episode.

Mike: Right! That is the first time I remember Creed having any lines of dialogue when he almost got fired.

Creed: And I've never had that many lines since then (laughs). That was my biggest scene, ever.
Mike: Right, he had the Dracula outfit on and then has to talk Michael out of firing him. When did you first realize Creed was developing a cult following?

Creed: Several weeks later, the day after the Halloween episode premiered, John [Krasinski] and Rainn [Wilson] came up to me and gave me big hugs and said, "You knocked it out of the park." I almost cried, that meant so much. But, yeah, it's when people started coming up to me and go, "Someone making soup?" Now I realize he's an iconic cult figure with the young people. It's so bizarre. I have no idea why, either.

Mike: Creed is always good for one or two hilarious lines an episode then he always drifts back to his own world. I do like, though, in the web episodes, we are seeing more of Creed.

Creed: Yeah, the web episodes, they turned out pretty funny.

Mike: Were you always going to be the focal point of them this time around?

Creed: At the last SAG awards we're on the red carpet and B.J. [Novak] comes up to me and said, "We were talking and we want you to be the star where you blackmail everyone. You think you'd be happy doing that." I was like, "Of course!" We shot those in one day. It was so much fun for me to cut loose. I love working with Oscar [Nunez], Oscar's a good friend of mine. He and I hang out a lot; we get sushi together and we watch the Lakers together, sometimes. We're planning on seeing some Mixed Martial Arts. He loves that stuff. On set I'm playing Sudoku and he's watching the fights (laughs).



Mike: I've spoken with Oscar; when I did, your name came up. He mentioned that you're a "rock 'n' roller" and have partied with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. I think he enjoys your tales from the road.

Creed: The first couple of season I had to sit down with everybody and regale them with all my debauched Rock 'n' Roll stories (laughs)... and there's quite a few of them, too (laughs).

Mike: I know we don't have time for that, but I could do a whole interview with you just about those stories. But, I know we are not here to talk about that.

Creed: Yep, we're here for "The Office." But maybe sometime we can do a rock 'n' roll interview.

Mike: We should! You know, I was looking at some of the shows that you've appeared in. I love thinking of your character Creed making quick cameos on "Quincy" and "Eight is Enough." It would probably bring some quirky edge to those shows.

Creed: I played a guy suspected of murder and something to do with cocaine on "Quincy"...

Mike: It would have been funnier if you said that you were a guy suspected of murder and something to do with cocaine on "Eight is Enough." I'd have been like, "Hm, I don't remember that episode."

Creed: (Breaks out in long laugh) Let's change that! Change the article to say, "On 'Eight is Enough' I was a convicted murderer." (Laughs) That's hysterical, that's even funnier. And on "Quincy" I did comic relief (laughs). Let's reverse them, it will be really good!

Mike Ryan
"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at miker@starpulse.com
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